I’m not sure when I first noticed it. It began as a subtle awareness: a déjà vu sensation. As I’ve traveled more and more over the years, this awareness expanded in both depth and intensity. Then I started to realize what was going on: travel leads me out of myself and into a world of wonders. The more unfamiliar the new environment is, the faster and deeper I want to go. Morocco, or ‘Maroc’ as the locals refer to it, felt like one enormous mystery: a dazzle of sensory experience that was a kind of non-stop seduction further and deeper into the heart of whatever city I was in at the time.
Most larger cities in Maroc have multiple souks (narrow, maze-like caverns of goods for sale), and medinas (city squares). Following a souk is exactly like the story of Alice, in her Wonderland: your curiousity propels you in your very first step forward, to see what lies ahead. The scenery changes constantly, so it’s hard to get your bearings. Spices, leather goods, clothing, fabrics, jewelry, food, shoes, crockery, rugs, metal crafts…just a partial list of ‘sections’ within each souk. And the smells: spices; solid aromatics, like amber, patchouli, rose and lemon; big, dark clumps of raw sugar (with bees swarming around the open bags. Leather, tobacco; copper pots and classic Maroc tin lamps – a pungent/angy cloud of scent.
New treasures are constantly being brought to souk stallks, by donkey or scooter, throughout the day; so walking a souk means paying attention to shouts of “Aihtaras!” (Move! Now!). For Moroccans, this is Life: vital commerce that extends from about 9 in the morning until midnight. It’s easy to get disoriented in a large souk: so many people, so many things that draw your attention; moving your feet forward, trancelike. Trying to avoid collisions with people, animals, scooters.
At some point in my life, travel began leading me ‘into’ myself as I explored the world. Just like in a souk, I abandon any worry of becoming lost, and surrender completely to the experience. I trust that, when I need to dip out of that journey for a minute, to process and integrate what I’ve learned, I’ll find the right resting spot. With this trip to Maroc, it dawned on me that — as weird as it feels to say — it’s been a part of my inner-self exploration even before my plans to go were made.
Returning to the States, as soon as I walked through the front door to my home, I saw with fresh eyes – and astonishment – that my décor is actually very Moroccan. It has been, since as far back as my first apartment. But I needed to go to Morocco, to wander souks with total abandonment and trust, to be reminded of what was already in my heart and a part of who I am. “Shukran, Maroc.” I will return; and in the meantime, continue to carry you with me always.